NEW YORK -- The New Republic will launch a domestic policy and politics vertical on Monday that Senior Editor Jonathan Cohn considers directly in line with the magazine's century-old mission.
“I’d like to think if Walter Lippmann were transported in time to today, it’s what he would be doing,” Cohn, who will oversee the new vertical, said of the magazine's co-founder. He noted that The New Republic has "always tried to be a part of the conversation about policy,” dating back its Progressive Era roots and early support for issues like the minimum wage.
Cohn said he and the two other primary writers for the vertical, Danny Vinik and Rebecca Leber, will offer reasoned arguments around issues like health care, the economy and climate change in the new section, which will be called Q.E.D. It will be found at NewRepublic.com, and Cohn and Co. also plan to produce a daily email newsletter.
Cohn’s Thursday post on Obamacare rate shock suggests what readers might expect from Q.E.D. While the media debate often resides in the extremes -- success or failure -- Cohn argued that “the truth is somewhere in between and the real argument, among those who follow the law closely, is whether the good stuff outweighs the bad stuff or vice versa.” Cohn walked readers through the issue with several charts based on a just-released survey.
Q.E.D. takes its name from an abbreviation for a Latin phrase that means “which was to be demonstrated” and is found at the end of mathematical proofs. Similar to proofs, Cohn said policy writers should show readers how they arrived at a given conclusion.
A 17-year veteran of The New Republic, Cohn has built a strong reputation in Washington for deep coverage of budgetary and social welfare issues. In 2007, he wrote a book on health care policy, Sick, and in recent years he has written extensively on the Affordable Care Act. (He's been largely supportive.) While politically liberal, Cohn opts on television and Twitter toward civil, wonky debates over partisan food fights.
Cohn remarked on how much the policy news cycle has changed since his early days at the magazine. He recalled writing in the late 1990s on HMO regulation and having a week to meet a print deadline. Now, he said, readers "expect you to know what you’re talking about" in three hours.
Competition in the wonk world has only gotten hotter in recent months.
In January, Cohn wrote that “policy journalism is having its moment” after Ezra Klein, the founder of the Washington Post’s Wonkblog, left the publication to co-found Vox.com, a site focused more on explaining the news than breaking it. Nate Silver also launched his data-driven FiveThirtyEight site in March, and The New York Times responded to his departure with The Upshot a month later.
While Q.E.D. fits into journalism's "wonk bubble," it's a small-scale operation when compared to high-profile launches like Vox and FiveThirtyEight, each of which boasts dozens of staffers.
Noah Chestnut, The New Republic’s director of labs, told The Huffington Post that Q.E.D. will add new features in the coming weeks to enhance the conversation between the writers, readers and other policy experts. Q.E.D., he said, will grow organically and innovate quickly based on reader engagement.
Cohn wouldn’t speculate as to how many posts can be expected daily. But given that Cohn used to publish one or two detailed posts a day on The Treatment, his old health care policy blog, it’s unlikely Q.E.D. writers will be churning out posts simply to generate content. Indeed, Cohn acknowledged that he’s “a big believer in quality over volume.”